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Page updated April 19, 2010
Opportunities for Visiting Scholars (Engineers, Faculty Sabbaticals, Post-Docs, Exchange Students, and Others)
UMTRI are always interested in looking for opportunities to collaborate with others from all over the world who have carried out quality research on driver interfaces, driver workload, and related topics. UMTRI scholars have included: (1) engineers who work for automotive manufacturers and suppliers with whom we have contracts and who have been sent to work on site, (2) graduate students from other universities who spend a year with us, (3) professors from other universities who spend a 6-month or year sabbatical, and (4) post-docs seeking additional training.
UMTRI has an international reputation for doing first-class research on driving. Visitors come to gain a better understanding of research methods, the research on some topic they are just beginning to understand, or to help conduct a research project their organization is funding. More generally, such visits strengthen the bond between UMTRI scientists and the visitor, and UMTRI and the sponsoring organization. Often, the visitor becomes a “window person” to the sponsoring organization and vice versa. Visiting engineerings often find a more general understanding of human factors particularly valuable.
Unless the visitor is an engineer funded by their employer, it is difficult to know in advance on which project the visitor will be working, though clearly it will be related to driver interfaces. Many projects are only 1 year long or less, and sometimes funding is not received until 2 or 3 months before the project starts. However, the application process usually starts 6 months to a year before the visitor arrives in Ann Arbor.
Visitors to UMTRI often use the instrumented vehicles and especially the driving simulator for evaluations. It must be emphasized that except for scientists who have had extensive experience with instrumented cars and driving simulators for human factors research, these are not walk up and use facilities and are quite expensive to use. The major cost is paying for the personnel who operate them. Furthermore, to use the driving simulator, visitors should know TCL (or a similar language) and have experience with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems in order to potentially write their own scenarios. It usually takes a month to learn the simulator and several months to write the scenarios. Keep in mind that all studies involving human subjects requires approval of the Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board and several months are needed to obtain approval. Furthermore, having people without training in behavior science test subjects is not considered favorably.
Visitors often find that an academic component is an important part of a visit. This includes sitting in on the Human Factors Engineering Short Course as well as other courses Dr. Green teaches (Industrial and Operations Engineering 437, Automotive Human Factors, September-December; Industrial and Operations Engineering 436, Human Factors in Computer Systems, January-April). Visiting engineers and graduate students may audit courses Dr. Green teaches with his permission. To take courses for credit, students need to be admitted to a specific University degree program or to the University overall as a “not candidate for degree”. UMTRI has no control over admissions. (As an aside, UMTRI is not an academic unit, so we do not offer classes or award degrees, though UMTRI personnel do participate in teaching through academic departments.)
Those interested should email Paul Green with a (1) letter of introduction, (2) statement of purpose (including why they are interested in being a visiting scholar and dates of visit), (3) resume, (4) copies of publications in English, and (5) financial support document. There is no application form.
Because one of the purposes of a visit is to establish a connection between UMTRI and the unit from which the visitor comes, we need a letter of introduction. An email message is preferred. If the visitor is a student, then the letter should be from (and written by) the student’s advisor. If the visitor is a faculty member, then the letter should be from the department chairperson. If the visitor is a company employee, then the letter should be from a supervisor.
The letter should describe (1) the individual and his/her qualifications, (2) any requirements individual needs to fulfill in coming to UMTRI, (3) the organization from which the visitor is coming, and (4) what the organization hopes to gain from their visit to UMTRI.
Eventually, there will be some sort of discussion of the objectives of the visit. The more specific the objectives are, the easier it is to assess whether the objectives were achieved at the end of the visit. When the objectives are described very generally, such as “to learn more about human factors,” assessing whether the objective was achieved (at the end of the visit) is difficult.
In deciding if someone should be invited to visit UMTRI, the primary consideration is the extent to which the visit will be mutually beneficial. In addition, UMTRI considers the person has the person done prior research that is closely related to our research. Automotive research that is not human factors does not qualify, nor does research in other areas of human factors, such as restraint system design. (Those with interest in restraints or crash biomechanics should contact the UMTRI Biosciences Division.)
To clarify the purpose, sometimes estimates of how time might be spent during the visit can be helpful. Though one cannot be certain in advance what will occur, these estimates using the table that follows are requested and useful.
After there is a working agreement about the visit, an official offer needs to be generated by the University. Usually, the visitor needs an official invitation from the University to pursue funding, but the visitor needs an official invitation to request funding. To circumvent the who acts first problem, we need to send the visitor’s resume, publications, and a cover note describing what is to be done during the visit to the UMTRI Director, who then writes a cover letter to the University’s Office of the Vice President for Research to obtain approval for the visit. We have never had a request denied. That process can take several weeks because the folks involved are quite busy. Therefore, it is essential that UMTRI knows the exact date by which the visitor must receive an official invitation and to know that well in advance. There has been 1 instance where plans for a visit were not completed because the date was not communicated, and we do not want that to occur again.
As second consideration if someone will be invited to UMTRI is if they have their own funding. UMTRI is a soft money organization, meaning we are funded by companies and the government to do contract research for them. Therefore, a person seeking to be a visiting scholar must have their own funding for basic support, though if the person works on UMTRI projects, a supplement is possible. According to the International Center rules as of 2009, a visiting scholar must document they have a minimum of $1500/month ($18,000/year) if they have no dependents, $2000/month ($24,000/year) with 1 dependent, and $2200/month ($26,000/year) with 2 or more dependents. For the latest information, check out the University of Michigan International Center web site. Please note that this requirement for funding (as of March 2009) is not listed directly on the I Center web site, but visiting scholars must complete the DS2019 form. In addition, visitors are also required to have health insurance as the US does not have universal health care for its citizens or visitors. See the International Center Web site - Health Insurance for details.
Most visits are for an extended period of time, 6 months to a year, but 2 years is feasible. In some cases, companies have had a succession of engineers work at UMTRI, with a new engineer rotating to UMTRI every year.
If someone has complete flexibility, and the visit is a year long, the best time to arrive is after July 4th (US Independence Day holiday). July is a less active month and there are fewer students on campus, so settling into town is easier. Usually, at least 1-2 very busy weeks are needed for administrative matters (getting an apartment, getting a driver’s license, etc.) and then the visitors should sit in the Human Factors Engineering Short Course. Hopefully, by that point their English language skills are sufficient. (Sometimes non-native English speakers take courses at the English Language Institute throughout their stay in Ann Arbor.)
Other good times to arrive are the third week of August or early December as the academic semester start early in September and January. Early in May is also a good choice. Settling in takes about a month, with most tasks being completed in 1-2 weeks. Preparing to leave is spread out over 2 weeks.
For the most part, if one must, one can get around Ann Arbor by walking, bike, and public transportation. However, every visiting scholar to the Human Factors Division has purchased a vehicle while they were here for convenience. Cars (for personal use, not research) and car insurance are usually provided by a visiting engineer's employer. Other visitors usually purchase a used car shortly after they arrive (1/family) and sell it shortly before they leave. Students and faculty must use their own finances. If the purchase price is less than $5000, expect to have several large repair bills (>$1000 each) over the period of the visit.
Visiting scholars should therefore get an international driver's license before they leave their home country. This will allow them to drive for 1 year in the U.S. If they don't have an international license, they will have to get a Michigan license immediately (which is useful anyway). As proof of identity, the State of Michigan requires a passport, foreign driver's license, and a third document. To get a Michigan driver's license, one must pass a written test, wait 2-3 weeks for a driving test to be scheduled, and another 1-2 weeks for the license to come in the mail. Obviously for someone studying driving, not having a driver's license is a problem.
Visiting scholars should bring copies of their medical and dental records to the U.S. Therefore, if they should have a health problem when they are here, a medical history can be obtained quickly. Since most U.S. doctors only speak and read English, visitors might want to have some of the records translated. An alternative would be to get a general health examination shortly after coming to the U.S., so there are health records in English. If there are non-prescription medicines you use regularly (for headache, colds, upset stomach) and prefer, bring them as they may not be available in the U.S.
At UMTRI, we generally provide visiting scholars with a Macintosh computer and connections to the Internet. Visitors almost always bring their own laptops with them that they can connect to the UMTRI network.
When asked what to bring, one visiting engineer from Japan said "money." Clothing is less expensive in the U.S. than overseas, especially Japan. Most UMTRI employees dress informally. Dr. Green usually just wears a nice pair of pants and a sweater. Some people wear jeans. UMTRI employees rarely wear jackets and ties except at conferences. If the visiting engineer likes certain sports (golf, skiing, bicycling, tennis, fishing, sailing, running, and so forth), they might bring the proper clothing and equipment (except for sailing). The University has excellent athletic facilities. There is a fee to use them (probably $300/year). After paying the fee, most facilities can be used for free, except for golf, for which there is a several dollar daily charge. How much money is needed to start for a 1-year visit varies with the individual, but $3000 should be sufficient (ignoring the purchase of a vehicle).
Upon arrival the visiting scholar will need an apartment. There are several complexes not too far from UMTRI (1-2 miles). If desired, UMTRI can obtain information on housing from local real estate agents, but usually housing is coordinated by the visitor, except for visiting engineers, who rely on their employer. For an unfurnished 1-bedroom apartment, rents are about $700-1000/month. The down payment on an apartment is typically rent for 1-1.5 months. The initial fee for furniture rental is $250 or more, though sometimes people purchase furniture at Ikea. Additional funds will be needed for dishes, utensils, pots, pans, cleaning supplies, towels, sheets, blankets, and so forth (maybe another $500). Appliances (TV, microwave, vacuum cleaner, etc.) could be several hundred more. The visiting scholar will also need a bank account. A minimum of about $500 is needed to open an account.
Food is relatively inexpensive in the U.S. There is a very large supermarket 1/2 mile from UMTRI and an Asian food store at about the same distance.
For tax purposes, the visiting engineer will need to obtain a social security card. This will require a visit to the local federal office building.
A visiting scholar from outside the U.S. will need a J-1 or other visa for any extended stay. Generally, this is handled by the visitor or their employer (for an engineer), though UMTRI will provide any supporting information requested..
Even though Ann Arbor is in the middle of the U.S., there are a significant number of non-Americans who live here. Of the 35,000 students at Michigan, about 10% are from outside the U.S. Many of them are graduate students who come with their families. In addition, several non-U.S. based companies (Toyota, Hyundai-Kia) have significant operations nearby, adding to the population of non-U.S. nationals. Ann Arbor has a well-established tradition of hosting non-U.S. nationals.
Additional information on housing, banking, driver's license, etc., can be obtained from the University of Michigan International Center-Lif in Ann Arbor (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
1. Letter of introduction
2. Statement of Purpose
4. Sample Publications
5. Financial Support Document